For this selection of bags, we highlight six local brands producing quality, trans-seasonal leather handbags. According to each brand, the leather* is locally and ethically sourced.
Cape Town-based Project Dyad was founded in 2016 by Vincent Urbain and Jessika Balzer. They specialise in the design and manufacturing of contemporary leather bags and accessories with a focus on an experimental, process-based approach. Project Dyad creations are handmade in-house. Designs are made to last, functional and easy to incorporate into everyday life.
Project Dyad predominantly uses cow leather sourced locally from suppliers around Cape Town and produced by tanneries in South Africa. All hides used are by-products of the meat industry. Ropes are sourced from a factory that produces for the sailing and climbing industry. All fittings used are sourced from local suppliers or produced in Cape Town.
Project Dyad produces in small batches and doesn’t produce more than is needed. Waste is kept to an absolute minimum, with a few products made from off-cuts. Unused waste is donated to schools to use for art projects. It supports animal and humanitarian organisations in South Africa through the creation and sale of its locally designed and handcrafted leather key rings. Longevity is important to Project Dyad. Leather ages naturally and becomes more beautiful over time with that it becomes something that people cherish and hopefully pass on.
Water and grease should be avoided. Clean the bag with a soft cloth and use a light leather cream, such as FamaEco an eco-friendly leather cream. Project Dyad offers care services for customer in Cape Town.
- Prices range between R260-R3000
- Purchase bags online here. Or from Project Dyad Shop & Studio at The Woodstock Exchange, Woodstock, Cape Town; AKJP in Cape Town; The Lobby in Cape Town and The Space in Rosebank Johannesburg
This Cape Town-based brand offers a range of classic-styled leather bags and accessories. The design ethos is Scandinavian simplicity with African flair. Each piece is hand-cut, hand-stitched and handwoven by a small team of women crafters and inspired by everyday life and natural environment. The design philosophy is form follows function, and then add some fun.
Ilundi uses ethically-sourced bovine (cow) hide, and locally-sourced finishes.
According to Ilundi, the hides are tanned to internationally acceptable formulations containing no harmful chemicals.
Follow the care instructions for each item. General rules include keep out of harsh, direct sunlight for long periods of time, and keep away from liquids.
Cost and availability
- Prices range between R250 – R3500
- You can shop here https://ilundi.co.za/products
- Ilundi offers a repair service
WOLF AND MAIDEN
The brand’s aim is to manufacture considered ‘future heirlooms’ designed to be functional, durable and reparable. The shape, structure and proportion of each piece allow for material enhancement with time and wear. The brand is inspired by the philosophy ‘buy less but better’.
These include vegetable tanned leather, wood, cotton, linen, and hemp. Base metals are sourced, as far as possible, locally, and only from reputable and equally conscious producers.
The brand has a circular focus. Their material focus is on organic substances which are inherently replenishable, sustainable and biodegradable. Construction and assembly techniques focus on durability and reparability for longevity. A repair service allows items to become ‘future heirlooms’, picking up marks and blemishes, which add character in the ‘wabi sabi’ tradition.
- Apply a little leather cream (dubbin or similar) from time to time to moisturise the leather.
- Repair service offered
Cost and availability
- Bags cost around $2,000 each
- Available online here.
JEKYLL & HIDE
This lifestyle brand merges original craftsmanship and attention to detail with fresh styling and a modern attitude – creating timeless pieces. Launched in Cape Town in 2002, Jekyll & Hide has been creating pieces that blend function and design – combining classic styling with modern demands, inspired by trends, travels, and functional requirements.
The cow leather is tanned using a traditional and natural vegetable tanning process. It is full-grain leather which is considered the strongest and most durable type of leather. Leather is a by-product of the food industry.
The products are made to last, while the fabric component of the product is being replaced with a 100% recycled material derived from used plastic bottles.
See the website for return and repair details.
Cost and Availability
Sisters Marissa (Maz) and Zandri (Zee) combine fashion design and graphic design to create accessories. Through innovation, they focus on never-seen-before concepts; showcasing South Africa’s manufacturing capability. The sisters focus on job creation while designing and manufacturing stylish handbags. These handbags will showcase excellent craftsmanship done by skilled South African artisans by making use of unique detailing and exquisite materials and trims.
Mazee handbags focus on high quality, trendy, functional and exciting genuine leather handbags. Only the best grains of leathers are sourced ethically and locally. The latest collection is manufactured using Piñatex, a leather-like material made from pineapple leaf fibre which gets mixed with a corn based polylactic acid. Customers can ‘flip’ their handbags to change the colour way for day to night wear or as the occasion arises without having to swap their handbags around.
Mazee follow fair labour and trade. Leathers are sourced ethically, and the bags are designed and manufactured to last for years, following the principles of slow fashion. Packaging is either recyclable or re-usable.
Mazee leather bags can be wiped with a damp cloth or leather cream. Bags should not be exposed to wet weather to prevent tarnishing of hardware from happening.
- Prices for the Piñatex Collection are between R450 – R1800
- You can purchase Piñatex Collection here.
This Cape Town-based leather bag company was established in 2012 to provide affordable leather rucksacks to local students. ROWDY’s mission has since evolved to make a refined range of practically designed and quality leather bags that encourage thoughtful consumption while empowering machinists. Geometric designs are influenced by minimalist aesthetic principles to create investment pieces to withstand the test of trends and time.
ROWDY uses premium grade, free-range and full-grain aniline and nubuck natural and unfinished leather cowhide sourced from a specialist tannery in Namibia.
Each purchase comes with a reusable shopping bag made from 100% recycled ginger beer bottles which are collected locally. The swing tags are attached with leather offcut. Most offcuts are used to make ROWDY’s Smalls Collection. To reduce overproduction and minimise waste, production only starts after an order for a specific item has been received and confirmed.
Use a Nubuck spray rather than normal leather food when cleaning and maintaining your Nubuck Leather bag. Normal leather food can change the tone of your bag. Treat it with a leather conditioner and avoid extreme temperatures. Always do spot testing before you apply any product on the leather. If wet, do not dry the leather with a hairdryer! Instead, absorb as much water as possible with a thick microfibre hand towel and allow the bag to air dry. If a white line forms around the stain, then use a pink eraser and lightly rub out the white line. For oily stains use a damp cloth and wipe lightly. If the stain persists, rub some baby powder onto the stain gently using an old toothbrush to disperse. Leave it on overnight and wipe off in the morning. Do not use cleaning products that contain alcohol, as these will dry out and possibly discolour your leather item. To treat scratches, if the scratches are small, rub it gently with your fingers as the natural oils on your finger will work into the leather. For larger scratches and marks apply a tiny amount of oil to the mark, let it soak in for a few minutes and then wipe the excess away with a clean, soft cloth.
- Prices range between R195 – R3295.
- Items are available here or at 20 Brickfield Road Salt River and 44 Stanley Avenue in Braamfontein, Johannesburg
*We know that for many of our readers, leather is problematic but most alternatives including pleather are problematic too. Leather is hardwearing, and if items are well-crafted and well cared for they will last a lifetime.